The merger of the Nederlandse Economische Hogeschool (NEH) and the Medical Faculty Rotterdam (MFR) was not a marriage of love, but a must

In 1966, Rotterdam was given a medical faculty at the Dijkzigt hospital on the western side of the city. When it was founded, it was already stipulated that the faculty would eventually have to merge with the Nederlandse Economische Hogeschool, which moved to the eastern side of the city in 1968.

Since the 1950s, there had been a desire within the municipality to establish a university in Rotterdam with a wider range of courses than economics alone. The NEH therefore broadened its scope to include law and sociology, for example.

With the establishment of the MFR, the creation of a Rotterdam university became inevitable. And although the NEH and the MFR could see the benefits of a merger, both parties also did their best to do so on condition of maintaining their individuality.

It is mainly due to the perseverance of the board members in The Hague that the merger ultimately came about, according to the historiography of those early years of the EUR. One of the people involved at the time even described the university child, born at 00.00 on 1 February as a result of the marriage between economists and doctors, as a ‘gynaecological miracle’.

For this article, the author used the book Erasmus University Rotterdam 1973-1993 by M. Davids and J. van Herwaarden, and the archive of the predecessor of Erasmus Magazine Quod Novum.

The name of the university was determined in the coffee room of Feyenoord stadium

And then we come to the decision to attach the name Erasmus to the university. It sounds logical: Erasmus was a scholar, very progressive and enlightened in his time and (as he claimed) born in Rotterdam.

But it was not the university academics who wanted to give this name to the new university. The historiography states that ‘urban circles that felt strongly connected to the NEH’ were the first to suggest the name. It was said to be Mayor W. Thomassen who discussed the naming with the Minister for Science Policy and Scientific Education, M.L. de Brauw, in the coffee room of De Kuip.

Later, the request to choose the name Erasmus was emphasised once again in a letter from a group of notables – who did not include any active scientists – to the minister. “We do not consider the designation Rotterdam to be sufficient, since the emphasis of this city is more on commerce and traffic than on science. (…) A name would therefore be welcome, and we are happy to be able to recommend the name Erasmus for this.” After some grumbling from the economists, who wanted to keep their own name, the Netherlands School of Economics in the English version, the name Erasmus University was chosen.

Erasmus University is not actually the university's legal name

The name might be all well and good, but officially the university is not called Erasmus University Rotterdam at all. Although the Ministry of Education agreed to the naming of the new university, in the law it maintained the formal name carried by all universities financed by the government: Rijksuniversiteit Rotterdam (University of Rotterdam). Abbreviated to RUR, and therefore much less suitable for wEURdplay.

So why are we celebrating the 110th anniversary rather than the 50th anniversary in November?

Although Erasmus University first saw the light of day on 1 February 1973, the official opening was only performed by Queen Juliana on 8 November 1973. This allowed the university to retain the original founding date of the Nederlandsche Handels-Hoogeschool in 1913. In an academic world in which you have to compete with institutions founded in 1575 (Leiden) or 1614 (Groningen), perhaps that’s not such a crazy thing from a marketing perspective.